Too, too horrible

Parole Board rejects serial killer Olson’s appeal

KIRK MAKIN
Globe and Mail Update

SAINTE-ANNE-DES-PLAINES, Que. — Serial killer Clifford Olson refused to listen to a National Parole Board panel Tuesday morning as it returned from a 30-minute deliberation and denied him early release from his life sentence for the murder of 11 British Columbia youths.

In a rambling opening address, Mr. Olson had berated the board for releasing dangerous serial killers in the past. He also insisted that the board had no jurisdiction over him because he has been granted “immunity” by U.S. authorities looking into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City in return for his co-operation.

“I’m leaving the country permanent,” Mr. Olson, 66, told the three-member panel, as he sat a few metres from them in a cage-like enclosure. “It’s something to do with 9/11. I had information dating back to ’99 on what was going to happen and who was going to do it.”

As the board members left to consider their decision, Mr. Olson said he had no intention of hearing it. He refused to re-enter the hearing room when it convened shortly afterward to deliver its conclusions and reasoning.

Board chairman Jacques Letendre went ahead, anyway, and said that Mr. Olson’s violent history, lack of remorse and continuing dangerousness make it probable that he would kill again if he were given the chance.
Mr. Olson made no crude outbursts during Tuesday’s hearing – as he had done nine years ago when he was given a judicial review at the 15-year mark of his sentence. He fidgeted uninterestedly, however, when others spoke and responded impatiently to the board members at one or two junctures during the hearing.

“With all due respect to the National Parole Board, you have released some notorious killers who went on to kill again,” Mr. Olson said early in the session. “In my opinion, serial killers should never be paroled.”

Bald on top with fringe of long, grey hair encircling his head, Mr. Olson appeared wiry and fit. He rarely gazed for long in any direction as the hearing progressed, and occasionally grabbed a bar of his cage to emphasize a point he was making.

The self-described Beast of B.C. pleaded guilty to the 11 torture murders in 1981 and was ruled ineligible for parole until he had served at least 25 years. Since he did not specifically waive his parole hearing, the board was obliged to go ahead and provide a normal review.

The hearing was heard in a small room at the ultra-secure Special Handling Unit of Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines penitentiary. The hearing room contained only the board members, a handful of prison officials, Mr. Olson and a few family members of the victims. Other victims watched on a closed-circuit television hook-up in a second room, while a pool of 20 reporters who had been transported into the institution in shuttle vehicles watched a television monitor in a third room.

The board first heard from a Correctional Services Canada parole officer who recommended that Mr. Olson be denied parole because he represents a continuing danger and would be likely to kill again if he were given the chance. The parole officer, Nancy Beaudoin, noted that Mr. Olson’s criminal record stretches back to 1957, and that psychiatric assessments have repeatedly found him to be a sexual sadist with narcissistic tendencies who is aroused by violent sexual acts.

The board also heard from four family members of the victims – one of them by video – who described the nightmarish effects Mr. Olson’s acts have had on them.

Doris Johnston, the mother of murder victim Colleen Daigneault, described how the child’s father became an alcoholic after Colleen was killed. She said he lost his job and died within two years.

“We really didn’t live our lives, we existed,” she said.

Jana Rosenfeldt, the sister of 16-year-old murder victim Daryn Johnsrude, wept as she told the board how her brother suffered in his final minutes of life. She said he had gone along with Mr. Olson after the older man offered him a summer job, only to be abducted and taken into the forest.

“Daryn was given a drink with a drug in it and rendered unable to move,” she said, halting often to compose herself. “He was then driven out to the woods. He had his clothes ripped off of him, he was bent over a tree, he was raped and then his head smashed in with a hammer. I don’t know how long he was alive for or all that he suffered, but this is what I do know: In the police reports, the offender stated that a few of Daryn’s last words before he died allegedly were: ‘Why are you doing this to me, Cliff?'”

Ms. Rosenfeldt said that her family were not permitted to see Daryn’s body because his beating had rendered him unrecognizable.

After the board hearing, some of the victims told reporters that they intend to campaign to ensure that neither Mr. Olson nor other killers who have no chance of ever being granted parole will be eligible for hearings.

“The 25-year parole board hearing is so futile and artificial,” Sharon Rosenfeldt, Daryn’s mother, told reporters. “It really is a charade. I can’t see how this can continue in Canada. There really hasn’t been any change in him, and I know there isn’t going to be any change in two years from now. … I found myself looking at him, looking at his hands and reliving the atrocities this man put my son through.”

Mrs. Rosenfeldt said she initially made eye contact with Mr. Olson and glared at him. When he glared back, she realized it was foolish for her to give him the pleasure of any sort of reaction whatsoever.

Her husband, Gary Rosenfeldt, said Mr. Olson is a manipulator with enormous criminal cunning who uses any sort of hearing in order to grandstand.

“The only one in the room who didn’t need a Kleenex was Olson, who doesn’t have any feelings,” he told reporters.

John Vandoremalen, the parole board’s director of communications, told reporters that, given the evidence of Mr. Olson’s long criminal past, the lack of change in his condition and his refusal to co-operate with the hearing, the board had little alternative but to deny him parole.

“From the evidence they had, it was very clear there is a likelihood that if he were released into the community, he would kill again,” Mr. Vandoremalen said. “They were that blunt about it.”

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